Make a Day of It: Run the Trails and Ride the Rails at the Mount Hood Railroad Polar Express

One thing about trains: It doesn’t matter where they’re going. What matters is deciding to get on. – Polar Express

Run Oregon loves running – that’s no surprise. But we also love the Pacific Northwest and all that it has to offer, even outside of running. Running is a part of us, but it does not fully define us. In our new “Make a Day of It” feature, we aim to showcase some great local non-running events and highlight where to run and how to make the most of your experience!

The first in this series is the Polar Express Train Ride in Hood River!

I am pretty certain that the majority of us have read the book or seen The Polar Express movie adaptation at some point in their lives. While it is a holiday classic, it isn’t necessarily about running (aside from the kids needing to continue to run to catch the train from leaving them behind). Each holiday season, the Mount Hood Railroad brings alive their own version of this story with their Mount Hood Railroad Polar Express Train Ride. We are lucky enough to be able to be asked to attend this year, and want to highlight some details, both running and non-running related, to help you consider heading into the Gorge and making a day of it! First the running:

Hood River is home to one our favorite races – the Columbia Gorge Marathon and Half. Brian and Teresa ran in 2015 and loved the beauty and challenge of the race. That event runs on the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail and comes with some of the most spectacular views over the Columbia River that you will find.

If you head over for the Polar Express, we recommend packing some running clothes and, depending on how much time you have before or after the trip, take an out-and-back to the Mosier Twin Tunnels, about a 7.25 mile paved roundtrip jaunt from the parking lot on Old Columbia River Drive.

As a self-described beer lover, I would personally recommend checking out some of the amazing family-friendly breweries that Hood River has to offer:

  • Full Sail
  • Pfriem
  • Double Mountain
  • Big Horse
  • Logsdon Barrel House

A little bit further out-of-town (either to north into Washington or south up the mountains), you have:

  • Foxtail Cider
  • Everybody’s Brewing
  • Solera Brewery

Now to the details to the experience itself:

Remaining 2015 Event Dates:  Dec. 11-13, 16-23, 26-27

Departure Times: 11:30 am, 2:00 pm, 4:30 pm, 7:00 pm (some days/times are already booked)


  • Standard Class: Child-$35, Adult-$45, Adult w/ Lap Baby $45
  • First Class: Child-$45, Adult-$55, Adult w/ Lap Baby-$66
  • Diamond Class:  Child-$55, Adult-$65, Adult w/ Lap Baby-$75
    • December 26-27 will be less (by about $5-$10 per person)

Check out the differences in the seating arrangements here and make sure to book your tickets here ASAP! If they are full for the days selected (they fill fast), please note that 2016 tickets will be on sale THIS MONTH.

Cookies and cocoa… perfect for pre- or post-run refueling.

If you want to make it even more of an experience, they have hotel packages, which include:

  • Standard seats aboard Mt. Hood Polar Express Train Ride (upgrades available)
  • Hotel accommodations
  • Pietro’s Pizza – Large 2 topping pizza, game tokens & pitcher of soda
  • Steam Train Collectible Ornament
  • Train station parking

I highly recommend checking out their Frequently Asked Questions section for much more detail

In addition to the Polar Express, the train keeps on rolling throughout the year with different events. So even if you can’t make it this holiday season, follow them on Facebook here for the latest information and head over for a day of trails and rails!

Stay tuned for a recap of our running and riding day next week. Hope to see you out there!


About Author

Matt Rasmussen lives in Keizer, Ore. with his wife and three daughters. He enjoys watching hockey, going to as many breweries (618) and wineries (152) as he can, and all things Canada (he was born there). Matt was raised as a baseball player and officially transitioned over to running in 2010.

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